Show of 09-14-2019

Tech Talk

September 14, 2019

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Jason in New York City: Dear Tech Talk. I have a three-year-old laptop that has a broken screen. It’s smashed pretty good and it won’t light up at all. I checked and it would cost more to have the screen replaced than the laptop is really worth. I plan to just junk it, but I have a lot of files on there that I’d really like to get off of it first. Do you think I’ll be able to save my files, and if so, how do I do it? Jason in New York City
  • Tech Talk Responds: I think you should indeed be able to save the files from your damaged laptop. Here are a few options for you to consider. Even though the screen is unusable, the laptop itself might still boot up just fine.
    • If it appears to start up after pressing the power button, you can try connecting an external monitor via the external video port. If all goes well you can simply run the machine with the external monitor long enough to copy the files from the hard drive.
    • You can remove the hard drive and connect it to another PC via an inexpensive external USB hard drive adapter.
    • You can remove the hard drive, then slip it inside an external USB hard drive enclosure and leave it connected to your computer as an external drive.
  • If you decide to go with the first option, be sure to either remove the hard drive from the laptop before disposing of it. That way no one will be able to steal your data from it.
  • Email from Wije in Rockville, MD: Tech Doc and Jim. I am having problems with my data usage. I have heard that iOS13 has solved this problem. What are the facts? Wije in Rockville.
  • Tech Talk Responds: You are correct, There is a Low data Mode in iOS 13 that shuts off all background communication. It stops Background App Refresh for apps and requests apps to postpone all non-urgent sync tasks until you are connected to a network that does not have Low data mode enabled. It also pauses all background sync tasks. So when Low Data Mode is enabled, the Photos app won’t back up your photos. You will not see much of a difference using your iPhone on a day-to-day basis, but all the background processes that you usually do not have control over will be paused.
  • To enable Low Data Mode on your cellular data connection, open the iPhone’s Settings app, and select the “Cellular” option.
    • Tap on Cellular option in Settings app
    • Tap on “Cellular Data Options.”
    • Tap on the toggle next to “Low Data Mode” to turn on the feature.
    • Tap on Low Data Mode toggle to enable Low Data mode
  • You can also enable low data mode in specific apps and services. For example, Instagram has an option for a low data mode. To save data usage in streaming apps, you can reduce the video or audio streaming quality.
  • Email from Donna in Pittsburg, KS: Dear Tech Talk. I have a bad problem and I need help ASAP. I was browsing Facebook last night and clicked on a link that caught my attention. As soon as I clicked it my screen went solid blue and the computer froze up completely. I finally just unplugged it and it booted back up into Windows, but now none of my programs will open. It’s running real slow too. I’m sure the link I clicked probably put a virus on my system but my Norton antivirus software won’t open so I can’t run a scan. Is there anything I can do to fix this problem besides just buying a new computer? Thanks for your help. Donna from Pittsburg, Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: The best way to be absolutely certain that you have completely cleaned your PC of malware is to wipe your hard drive and re-install Windows from scratch.
  • The second best way is to restore everything from a known good system image backup that you created at a point in time before your PC became infected with the malware.
  • Sometimes neither of those options are feasible however, so we have to remove the malware manually. Here’s the step-by-step procedure that I recommend:
    • Boot your PC into Safe Mode with Networking.
    • Download Geek Uninstaller and use it to remove any toolbars that you do not remember installing at some point.
    • If possible, update your existing antivirus software and run a thorough scan to remove any malware that it finds.
    • If you’re unable to update your existing antivirus program, uninstall it and then install the free version of Avast Antivirus and run a scan with it.
    • Download the free version of Malwarebytes from this page, then install it and run a thorough scan so it can remove any malware that it finds.
    • Download Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit from this page and run it, then follow that up by downloading the free Sophos Rootkit Removal tool from this page and running it as well.
    • Download Autoruns from this page. Save the zipped folder to your Desktop, extract all the files, and then click on autoruns.exe to run the program.
    • Once Autoruns is up and running, uncheck the box beside every process that you don’t want to load every time the PC is booted up.
  • Email from Allen in Springfield, Missouri: Dear Doc and Jim. I just got my new iPhone and configured it to allow Wi-Fi calling. Wi-Fi calling works when I am at work. However, when I get home and connect to my home router, Wi-Fi calling fails to initiate. I need Wi-Fi caling because my cellular signal at home is very weak, particularly in the basement. Thanks for your help. Allen in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Tech Talk Responds: To use Wi-Fi Calling, your device must be able to communicate with the carrier network. If the router’s configuration has been updated or you are using a firewall you may have to update the router settings to support Wi-Fi Calling.
  • Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is a method of encrypting traffic sent through the Internet. It is used to provide a secure voice and data communication path. Wi-Fi Calling requires IPsec pass-through. Make certain that IPSec is allowed. This setting can be found the firewall section of your router configuration. UDP Ports 500 and 4500 are used to communicate with the carrier. These ports must be open. Check the access lists in the firewall section of your router setup. These requirements re described in RFC 5996, which described Version 2 of the Internet Key Exchange (IKEv2). IKEvs is a component of IPsec used for performing mutual authentication and establishing and maintaining Security Associations. Finally Wi-Fi calling performs best if the Maximum Packet Size (MTU) is set to 1500. Just search for MTU in your router settings. Hope these changes work for you.
  • Email from Don in Baltimore, MD: What is the difference between a ‘System Image’ backup and a regular backup? Are these just regular backups or is there something different about them? I’ve been using Carbonite to back up my irreplaceable files, but would I be better off creating Windows 10 System Image backups instead? Don in Baltimore, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: What you refer to as “regular” backups typically only back up selected types of files, leaving the rest of the files on the hard drive or SSD out of the backup set. On the other hand, an “image” backup creates what is essentially a “mirror image” of the contents of your hard drive or SSD and (usually) stores it on an external USB hard drive. That means if you ever need to replace a failed drive or reinstall the operating system for some reason you’ll be able to restore the drive back to the exact state it was in at the time the image backup was created.
  • Carbonite is an excellent choice for an off-site backup medium. That is probably not a disk image, unless you have purchased that very expensive option from Carbonite.
  • The good news is that Windows 10 can create a System Image on an external USB hard drive.
    • Click the Start button, the type the words control panel.
    • Select Control Panel from the list of search results.
    • Click System and Security.
    • Click File History.
    • Click the System Image Backup in the lower left-hand corner.
    • Click Create a system image.
  • Repeat the steps above on a regular basis to ensure that you always have a recent backup image on hand. Back up files daily. Create a disk image whenever you make changes to the OS or to your applications.

Profiles in IT: Jean E. Sammet

  • Jean E. Sammet is best known for developing the FORMAC programming language and one of the developers of the COBOL programming language.
  • Jean E. Sammet was born on March 23, 1928 in New York City.
  • Sammet enrolled in Mount Holyoke College based on the strength of its mathematics program. Sammet majored in mathematics and took education courses.
  • After graduating from Mount Holyoke, Sammet pursued graduate studies at the University of Illinois, where she received her MA in 1949.
  • In 1951, Sammet took a position at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as a trainee actuary, focusing on punched card accounting machines.
  • She left her position at the insurance office and enrolled at Columbia University to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics, but dropped out after one year.
  • From 1953 to 1958, Sammet was hired as a mathematician for Sperry Gyroscope. She spent time working on mathematical analysis problems and ran an analog computer.
  • In early 1955, Sammet became the principle programmer for the Sperry Electronic Digital Automatic Computer (SPEEDAC). He eventually became a group leader.
  • In 1955 Sperry Gyroscope and Remington Rand merged and became Sperry Rand.
  • This merger allowed Sammet access to the UNIVAC I computer and Grace Hopper.
  • In fall of 1956, Sammet taught one of the earliest graduate-level courses in computer programming Adelphi University, without a computer or textbook.
  • Sammet decided to leave Sperry. Sammet was unable to find a position for a woman in any field she was interested in so she decided to scan the men’s list.
  • She was hired by Sylvania Electric Products to oversee software development for MOBIDIC (MOBIle DIgital Computer), which was a transistorized computer.
  • In 1959, Sammet and five other programmers established much of the design of the COBOL programming language in a span of two weeks for the US government.
  • Around 1965 or 1966, Sammet noticed a need for the exchange of intellectual information with others working with languages and software.
  • She was a member of ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) for years but was not active until she became interested in starting a special interest group.
  • In 1965, she was named her Chairperson of the Special Interest Committee on Symbolic and Algebraic Manipulation (SICSAM).
  • With assistance from those interested in SICSAM, Sammet organized a Symposium on Symbolic and Algebraic Manipulation in March 1966
  • In 1968, Sammet became Chairperson of the ACM Committee on SIGs and SICs
  • In 1972, she was elected ACM vice president.
  • In 1989, she received Lovelace Award (Association for Women in Computing).
  • In 2009, she received Computer Pioneer Award (IEEE Computer Society)
  • Sammet died on May 20, 2017 in Silver Spring, Maryland after a brief illness.

Windows 10 now Runs on over Half of the World’s Computers

  • Windows 10 has been slowly increasing its foothold in the marketplace for a while now, and according to the latest stats from NetMarketShare it’s now running on over half (50.99%) of all the world’s personal computers.
  • Windows 7 is scheduled to officially be abandoned by Microsoft in January 2020.
  • Windows 8.1 will be around for a couple years longer but it’s scheduled to be abandoned as well in January 2023.
  • In other words, there are now more computers running Windows 10 than computers running Mac OS X, Linux, Chrome OS and all previous versions of Windows combined!
  • Windows 10’s current dominance of the PC market will surely rise even further as older PCs are replaced with new ones running Windows 10.
  • And its market share will take a massive jump in January after Windows 7 is no longer supported
  • Microsoft has been working endlessly to increase Windows 10’s market share until it completely dominates the personal computer market, and they are obviously well on their way to achieving that goal.

The World’s Longest Running Webcam Almost Went Offline

  • FogCam, the world’s longest running webcam, will be shut down its creators, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Wong, announced on Twitter:
  • FogCam has been in “near-continuous operation” for the past 25 years, having been temporarily offline when it had to be moved around San Francisco State University’s campus.
  • Originally, the duo came up with the idea to set up a livestream while they were taking computer science classes and learning the process of scripting. Schwartz also ran another webcam from his apartment that streamed his cats, Petunia and Web, so he could keep an eye on them while he attended classes.
  • Schwartz and Wong’s “little pet project” grew quickly and came to be loved by viewers, many of whom shared their disappointment:
  • Alas, Wong and Schwartz seem firm in their decision to shut the camera down but will leave the FogCam website up “for the sake of posterity.”
  • Update from the website: San Francisco State University can confirm it has agreed to continue maintaining the FogCam, which prevents shutdown of the service.
    • San Francisco State University has supported operation of the FogCam since its inception in 1994, a major technology milestone at the time. The University looks forward to continuing the webcam’s legacy.
  • Link to Website: https://www.fogcam.org/

You Can Take Your iPhone to an Independent Repair Shop

  • Apple is now allowing third parties to fix iPhones with genuine Apple parts.
  • Store technicians can become certified to fix iPhones at their stores for free.
  • Apple says this update will provide access to the most common supplies for out-of-warranty iPhone repairs, including genuine Apple parts, tools, training, repair manuals, and diagnostics services.
  • More independent repair businesses will have access to the same genuine parts, tools and other resources as Apple Authorized Service Providers.
  • Prior to the announcement, only the company’s global network of 5,000 “Apple Authorized Service Providers” could make repairs on iPhones without consequence.
  • Apple has a history of lobbying against “right-to-repair” bills, which allow outside vendors to fix the company’s products.
  • Apple says there is no cost for stores to join the new program, but there is the inherent opportunity cost relating to one of the stipulations: Shops must have an Apple-certified technician who can perform the repairs. That certification is an up-front time investment, but is free of charge.

Idea of the Week: What3Words to Map the World

  • Most of us aren’t experts on latitude and longitude, rendering the strings of coordinates useless.
  • That’s why a British company has created a new way of addressing the world: by assigning three words to every 3-meter by 3-meter square on the planet.
  • Working in the music industry, Chris Sheldrick quickly discovered how easy it is to show up at the wrong place entirely. So Sheldrick began using coordinates to tell people where to meet him. Typing out 16 digits every time was pretty annoying.
  • Sheldrick and long time friend Mohan Ganesalingam, a math whiz, to help him come up with a location system that was as precise as GPS coordinates.
  • He ended up writing down the first three-word location algorithm on the back of an envelope. With a third friend who specializes in translation, the three set up shop.
  • The English language is composed of 171,476 words, at least according to the Oxford English Dictionary. What3words removed any hyphenated words, curse words, and homophones. That left the team with 40,000 words, which composed some 64 trillion unique three-word combinations. Since the Earth has room for 57 trillion 3-meter squares on its surface, that left a few trillion extras lying around.
  • What3words, the company these friends founded in London five years ago, can now pinpoint a location more exactly than addresses do, especially if the place has multiple entrances or encompasses multiple buildings.
  • After the 2017 earthquake in Mexico City, the Mexican government used the
  • what3words system to translate GPS coordinates into three-word locations that it shared with first responders to save people. Words can be in any language.
  • If you want to use this application, download the what3words app on the mobile phone and allow it use your GPS coordinates.
  • The three word coordinate for WTOP radio front door is ///purely.exile.gets.
  • The three-word coordinate for the White House is ///sulk.held.raves

The Next Storage Breakthrough: DNA

  • DNA offers the best information storage device scientists have ever discovered. But accessing it is incredibly complex.
  • That is why scientists set out to create an amazing result with a somewhat simplified method of DNA storage.
  • Researchers have shown the theoretical possibility that they could store 10 petabytes (10 million gigabytes) of data in a single gram of DNA. Potentially, all of YouTube could fit on a teaspoon.
  • The study, from researchers at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, also in Israel, is meant to examine the possibility of DNA as data storage.
  • DNA already holds the intensely complex code for human life, which makes it potentially amazing for data storage.
  • Encoding information DNA requires a chain made up of links called nucleotides. These nucleotides are the four building blocks of life, marked with letters A, C, G, and T. Binary sequences consisting of 0s and 1s are then translated into these four letters.
  • Scientists are considering CRISPR techniques to make DNA more malleable to information storage.

Idea of the Week: Generating Power from the Night Sky

  • A new device can harvest energy from the cold night sky.
  • By harnessing the temperature difference between Earth and outer space, a prototype of the device produced enough electricity at night to power a small LED light.
  • A bigger version of this nighttime generator could someday light rooms, charge phones or power other electronics in remote or low-resource areas that lack electricity at night when solar panels don’t work.
  • The core of the new night-light is a thermoelectric generator, which produces electricity when one side of the generator is cooler than the other.
  • The sky-facing side of the generator is attached to an aluminum plate sealed beneath a transparent cover and surrounded with insulation to keep heat out. This plate stays cooler than the ambient air by shedding any heat it absorbs as infrared radiation.
  • Meanwhile, the bottom of the generator is attached to an exposed aluminum plate that is continually warmed by ambient air.
  • At night, when not baking under the sun, the top plate can get a couple of degrees Celsius cooler than the bottom of the generator.
  • Engineer Wei Li of Stanford University and colleagues tested a 20-centimeter prototype of the device on a clear December night in Stanford, Calif.
  • The generator produced up to about 25 milliwatts of power per square meter of device, enough to light a small light-emitting diode, or LED bulb.
  • The team estimates that further design improvements, like better insulation around the cool top plate, could boost production up to at least 0.5 watts per square meter.
  • A typical lamp bulb might consume a few watts of electricity. So a device that took up a few square meters of roof space could light up a room from the night sky.

Is It the End of the Gig Economy?

  • In California has passed a bill that paves the way for gig-economy workers to get holiday and sick pay.
  • Some estimates suggest costs for firms like Uber would increase by 30% if they had to treat workers as employees.
  • Lyft, which has not expanded internationally in the same way as Uber, seems more concerned about the impact of the law.
  • Taskrabbit, a platform which puts customers in touch with people who can do small jobs, such as assembling furniture, will also have a challenge to make the books balance. Imagine, for instance, the cost of giving health insurance to the 60,000 who do the tasks, some on a regular basis; others very occasionally.
  • And it is clear that while some gig economy workers feel exploited, others enjoy the flexibility of the work. Becoming an employee would lock you down – I don’t think a lot of drivers would be happy with that.

An Asteroid Passed Close to Earth Tonight

  • On Saturday night September 14, 2019, an asteroid that is between 300 and 600 meters in diameter will fly by Earth.
  • Experts say the asteroid, known as Asteroid 2000 QW7, will miss our planet by about 3 million miles or 14 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.
  • The closeness of its pass on Saturday will allow astronomers to hone their measurements of its trajectory, allowing for more accurate calculations of its strike probability in the future.
  • Gianluca Masi, Scientific Director at The Virtual Telescope, told Salon in a statement that amateur astronomers can view its fly-by, which is at 7:54 pm on the East Coast, but will have to have a telescope with a diameter of at least 250 millimeters.
  • Experts at B612 Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect Earth from asteroid impact, say while this is not a threat to our planet today, it could be in the very distant future, as its orbit will cause it to repeatedly pass near Earth.
  • Asteroid 2000 QW7 was first discovered by NASA astronomers on August 8, 2000.